Philosophy Essay, Research Paper
Is human nature naturally good or is it evil? This question has not only been pondered by countless philosophers, but also by religious leaders around the world. Both Mencius and Hsun Tzu are brilliant Chinese philosophy thinkers and followers of Confucius, however, their perception of human nature is quite different. Mencius believes that human beings are fundamentally good and that they have a natural potential for goodness. Hsun Tzu on the other hand believes that human beings are fundamentally evil and self-seeking. Hsun Tzu also believes that human beings have a potential for goodness but only through conscious activity. In comparing Mencius view and Hsun Tzu this essay will prove that Mencius believes that human nature is basically good and is only impeded by an evil social environment, while the more vaild is Hsun Tzu view is that human nature is basically evil in the sense of being self-centered and needs education and social control to become good.
Mencius believes that human nature is fundamentally good, everyone has a heart that is sensitive to the suffering of others. However people are not perfect many are flawed, but they are capable of being good according to Mencius. When Mencius was asked by a man Kung-tu Tzu whether human nature was good, evil or neither Mencius responded A main is capable of becoming good… As for his becoming bad, that is not the fault of his native endowment. (Courseware, 27) He believes that people have the potential to be good it is not foreign within them. Mencius view is that evil is the neglect of our human nature. To explain this view he uses the Ox Mountain metaphor:
“There was a time when the trees were luxuriant on the Ox Mountain.As it is on the outskirts of a great metropolis, the trees are constantly lopped by axes. It is any wonder that they are no longer fine? With the respite they get in the day and in the night, and the moistening by the rain and dew, there is certainly no lack of new shoots coming out, but then the cattle and sheep come to graze upon the mountain. That is why
it is as bald as its is. People, seeing only its baldness, tend to think that it never had any trees. But can this possible the nature of a mountain?
Originally the Ox Mountains nature was very beautiful just like a persons original nature is pure and full of beauty. However the beauty of the mountain was destroyed because people did not care about it and they did not put any effort to restore its beauty by replanting trees. Mencius believes that people often act the same way with their hearts they do not take care it, they put no effort to restore the original goodness of their heart. Mencius said When his chickens and dogs stray, he has sense enough to go after them, but not when his heart strays. (Courseware, 28) People do not always go after their hearts and that is why they do bad acts. Mencius believes that when people do not do good it is because they have not preserved their original good nature and have let their heart stray, they have not realized or put any effort to restore their goodness. The tree less mountain seems UGLY to people and many of them think that it has always been that way they have forgotten that once it was very beautiful and full of trees. The same can be thought about a person who acts evil, his heart may seem that way however originally it was not like that it was full of goodness just like the mountain was full of trees. The reason why the persons nature may seem evil is because it was not properly taken care of and no effort was made to make it good. The original nature of the mountain is to be full of trees, same with a person nature is be good and complete with four components. Mencius strongly believes that there are four inherent components of human nature: compassion, sens of shame, courtesy and modesty, and right and wrong.
From this it can be seen that whoever is devoid of the heart
of compassion is not human… and whoever is devoid of the heart of
right and wrong is not human. The heart of compassion is the germ of benevolence; the heart of shame, of dutifulness; the heart of courtesy and modesty, of observance of the rites; the heart of right and wrong, of wisdom. Courseware, 27)
In Mencius view anyone lacking these four components is not human. Every person in the world is born with the four virtues of human nature, not to use them is like disabling oneself. These four components and its virtues are what make people good. If a man is able to develop all these four germs that he posses ,it will be like a fire starting up or a spring coming through If a person is able to develop and incorporate these four components into everyday life he will be ultimately good. Mencius believes that everyone is capable of being good its just that everyone has to be willing. Hsun Tzu also believes that humans are capable of being good but with lots effort and sacrifices.
Hsun Tzu s view on human nature is that it is fundamentally evil because of the passions and emotions people have for profit. He believes that goodness does exist but it is only the result of conscious activity. People have to think before they create goodness, because they are born with feelings of envy, hate and desires for beautiful things. Hsun Tzu believes that if people give in to these fondness and feelings they will violate the rules and laws of society end up as criminals. Any man who follows his nature and indulges his emotions will inevitably become involved in wrangling and strife, will violate the forms and rules of society… (Courseware, 37) Since peoples initial instinct is to profit and follow ones emotions a person must be transformed by instructions of someone wiser like a teacher who will guide and observe the persons actions. If man were to have no teachers to guided them than they will be inclined towards evil and there will be no courtesy or humility, because courtesy and humility are contrary to man s emotional nature. Its is man s emotional nature to love profit and desire gain. Hsun Tzu says:
Now let someone try going away with the authority of the ruler,
ignoring the transforming power of ritual principles, rejecting the
order that comes from laws and standards, and dispensing with the
restrictive power of punishments, and then watch and see how people
of the world treat each other. He will find that the powerful impose
upon the weak and rob them, the many terrorize the few and extort from
them, and in no time the whole world will be give up to chaos and mutual
destruction. (Courseware, 40)
Hsun Tzu believes that human nature must be evil because if it was not then people would not do harm to each other but people do injustice to each other and that is why laws and rules exist to protect people. If human nature was fundamentally good then there would be no need to protect people and society could live without laws, authority and the justice system. According to Hsun Tzu all laws, rules and ritual principals are produced by conscious activity of humans and they are not products of man s nature. Hsun Tzu believes that anyone can become a good person but it is not their nature to be good and that is why they have to work at it. All humans posses the same nature …the sages Yao and Shun possessed the same nature as the tyrant Chieh or Robber Chih, and the gentleman possesses the same nature as the petty man. (Courseware, 41) All people are born with the same nature but what makes some people be good and others evil is that the good people are able to transform their nature and apply themselves to conscious activity. The reason why some humans actions are evil is because they give in to their nature, follow their emotions, and are content to indulge their passions, therefore their actions are greedy and contentious. Hsun Tzu truly believes that anyone can become a good person he says Any man in the street has the essential faculties needed to understand benevolence, righteousness, and proper standards, and the potential ability to put them into practice. Therefore it is clear that he can become good. (Courseware, 42) Anyone is capable of becoming good however not everyone is willing to be good but everyone does have the ability and potential. For Hsun Tzu environment is very important for people to produce good they need a good enviornment and good teachers and friends because people learn from others with whom the associate. He says that
If he associates with good companion, he will be able to
observe conduct that si loyal and respectful. Then although
he is not aware of it, he will day by day progress in the practiceof benevolence and righteousness, for the enviornment he is subjected to will cause him to progress. The people with whom a person associates have a big influence on whether the person will be good or not. Therefore if a person associates with people who are not good, he will also become like them because of the enviornment he is subjected to. For a person to be good and just the evnroment and the people he associates with have to also poses goodness because a person adapts to what he is exposed to. Hsun Tzus view is that all humans are born with the same nature which is evil however if they willing than they are able to transform their nature with the help of a guide to be good. Without teachers or guides to help people transform their nature people would be evil, and there would be great chaos in the world, Hsun Tzu view that human nature evil is more valid than Mencius .
Hsun Tuz is correct in believing that human nature is fundamentally evil because as stated above without rules and authority people would cause chaos therefore Mencius believe that human nature is good can not hold true. Mencius is wrong because if people were good than there would be no need for laws, rules, and people to in force them. Mencius explanation for why people do not act justly is because they are flawed however they are capable of learning because their nature is good. Hsun Tzu on the other hand believes that Mencius does not distinguish nature and conscious activity.
The nature is that which is given by Heaven; you cannot learn
it, you cannot acquire it by effort. Ritual principles, on the other
hand, are crated by sages you can learn to apply them …. That
part of man which cannot be learned or acquired by effort is
called the nature; that part of him which can be acquired by
learning and brought to completion by effort is called conscious
activity. (Courseware, 38)
A person can not learn nature, he can only learn the rituals or the laws since they are not part of a persons orginal nature. Therefor a person frces himslef to study, accept and understand them. An understanding of laws and ritual principals is not part of a persons orgilan nautre, a person cannot learn to be good only the actions of goodness. For example Hsun Tzu views that it is part of mans nature that his eyes can see, however sight can never exist without the eye, it is obvious that one cannot acquire sight by study. Therefore it is impossible for a person to learn nature because either the person has it or not and one can not just learn it, one can only with effort adapt through conscious activity. Mencius believes that man s nature is good, and that all evil arises because he loses his original nature. Hsun Tzu however, believes that this view is wrong his view is that it s the way with man s nature that as soon as he is born he begins to depart from his original nivete and simplicity… (Courseware, 38) Therefore a person must inevitably lose what Mencius regards as his original nature. It is obvious then, that the nature of man is evil and that Mencius view can not be true. Hsun Tzu believes that a the reason why people do good even though their nature is evil is because every man who desires to do good does so because his nature is evil. Whatever a man lacks in himself he will seek to attain it. As Hsun Tzu says A man whose accomplishments are meager longs for greatness; an ugly man longs for beauty; a man in cramped quarters longs for spaciousness; a poor man longs for wealth; a humble man longs for eminence. (Courseware, 39) Therefore a man wants what he does not have, but if a man is already has what he wants he will not try to get it because he already has it. So if a man is already rich, he will not long for wealth. What a man already posses in himself he will not bother to look for outside. Therefore, from this we can conclude that a person desiers good because his nature is evil. Mencius view that human nature is orginally good does not hold true again because if a persons nature was good than he would no longer seek to be good. Hsun Tzu s view on human nature is more valid than Mencius because humans always want what they don t have, and it is impossible to learn human nature it is something that is inherent in a person, and society could not function without rules and laws and if people were fundementally good then there would be no need for them. Therefore Hsun Tzu s view is more accurate than Mencius view.